Dirk Baton uses a scroll saw to cut out puzzle pieces on Friday at Heights Middle School in Farmington.
Dirk Baton uses a scroll saw to cut out puzzle pieces on Friday at Heights Middle School in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Furniture built by a few shop class students for teachers and staff at Heights Middle School will provide a long-lived legacy.

Students in Eric Hircock's shop class have built pieces of furniture ranging from a storage case for laptop computers to bookcases for use by teachers.

These projects serve a dual purpose, vice principal Donny Ortiz said.

"We save money by not purchasing from a company that sells office furniture and the kids learn something from it," Ortiz said. "It's a win-win for everybody."

Ortiz said he believes the projects give students a confidence boost and a pride in their work and the school.

Hircock starts his sixth grade students with small projects such as building CO2-powered racing cars and learning to use the scroll saw for projects that include pens, pencils and salt and pepper shakers.

During his seventh period, which he uses for preparation, Hircock will sometimes invite students to work on projects like a set of bookcases which now reside in Spanish teacher Sandra Ramos' classroom or a custom mailbox for the front office constructed of solid oak.

The custom-designed paper sorter holds inter-school mail. Young said the piece would have cost the school about 10 times as much if purchased from an office furniture store.

"I try and pick some kids who need a little extra help and attention to help with extra things," Hircock said. "My teacher aides help clean and stuff and help with sanding and staining (furniture). They get involved."

During the first nine weeks of the school year, students worked on the bookshelves during Hircock seventh period class.

Eighth grader Alika Smith described Hircock's teaching style as fun.

"He made it interesting, he put humor into it," Smith said.

Wood shop teacher Eric Hircock and students Alika Smith and Ashley Brooks on Friday demonstrate a folding chair they recently made at Heights Middle School
Wood shop teacher Eric Hircock and students Alika Smith and Ashley Brooks on Friday demonstrate a folding chair they recently made at Heights Middle School in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

Colton Velarde and Kaylee Torrez helped build the bookcase. Torrez helped stain and treat the wood while Velarde sanded and drilled holes for the screws.

"It's cool that I made it," Torrez said.

Velarde said he enjoyed taking a class where he didn't have to read books and learned woodworking skills he could apply to future projects.

"I learned how to make things. If I ever wanted to grow up to be an inventor, you could be designing new things, things you learned from the shop," Velarde said. "If you want to make a chest, you can design how to make it."

Hircock said the projects will help his students succeed in the future.

"I think it's frustrating for some kids that come to school and don't have a lot of academic success," Hircock said. "For some of them, to have a chance to build something and be successful with it, it really opens their eyes."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.